Steve Loomis has been saying it for months now and he's going to keep on saying it: The city of Cleveland, despite public reassurances by the safety department, mayor, the Secret Service and the chief of police, is behind schedule in getting Cleveland cops ready for the Republican National Convention. That includes, Loomis has said, timely acquisition of equipment, ill-fitting riot gear, unclear operational guidelines, training and more.
There's no question that the RNC poses a logistical and security problem the city and its police men and women have never faced, and that recent history in the department has led many to worry about the ability of Cleveland cops to maintain peace and order during the historic event. And there's little question that the arrival of Trump's GOP coronation will likely bring with it tens of thousands of protestors from all ends of the political spectrum. And the idea that the city itself has been slow — both in general perception and compared to Philadelphia, which is hosting the Democratic National Convention, and voiced not just by the media but by members of city council — to address concerns and announce regulations regarding issues such as parade routes and protest permit applications has long been part of the narrative in the host city's buildup to the main event.
Still, the most vocal and strident critic of the city's prep is one of its own, though a man whose job it is to defend and advocate for the rank and file.
Back on March 30
"We haven't worked with any of these officers, or even our own officers. We are months and months behind where we need to be for this thing. And that's the FEMA instructors telling us that," said Loomis.
And April 4
Steve Loomis, president of the union representing rank-and-file Cleveland police officers, said he's "very, very concerned' the city is behind schedule.
In an interview with cleveland.com, Loomis said that Cleveland police have begun training in crowd-control techniques, but have yet to be fitted for the 2,000 sets of riot gear the city plans to buy.He also said Cleveland plans to buy 300 bicycles, but that officers are not trained in bike patrol techniques.He said that some equipment vendors need 90 days to turn around a big order. The convention is 105 days away.
"My fear is that we sat on our hands a little too long," Loomis said. "We're being told ... that we're anywhere from six to nine months behind where we should be. So, we've really gotta get a move on here."
And May 6
The Cleveland police union has complained repeatedly about officers not getting enough training or equipment for convention week. In light of this training, Steve Loomis said, "We have concerns. We'll take all the training we can get with as many people as we can get it with. But we still have significant concerns."
And June 8
Steve Loomis, the union’s outspoken leader, said Wednesday that he intends to put his accusations in writing and send a letter to Jackson and police department leaders.
Loomis said the union will “hold the city responsible” for any officer injuries, lost or damaged property or civil liabilities as a result of the city's lack of training or preparedness.
Loomis has contended for months that the city is poorly prepared for the rush of tens of thousands of demonstrators and counter-protests expected for the RNC in July.
The union chief’s comments come on the same day city leaders and the U.S. Secret Service issued assurances that the city was ready for the convention.
And June 16
In an interview, Loomis stood firm. He said he has spoken with his members, their supervisors and others in the community who feel city leadership is ill-prepared for the convention. He said his members still haven't received certain equipment the city ordered for the convention, much less been trained in its use, and just have begun to receive their general orders for the event.
He also said it's telling that many police departments in Ohio and throughout the country have refused to send officers to Cleveland. One department, Greensboro, N.C., in part cited a perception that Cleveland was not prepared when it decided last month to back out of a commitment to send officers to help with the GOP convention.
"I want to hold their feet to the fire to get us the things my members need to do their jobs," Loomis said. "And if this thing goes bad, we will be well on record on why it went bad."
In an interview with the national Sinclair Broadcasting Network's "Full Measure" that aired Sunday morning, Loomis made a dire prediction.
"There's definitely going to be guys that are going to get hurt," Loomis said. "But the city has a responsibility and a duty to make us as safe as possible by providing us the gear that we need to do the job, the training we need to do the job, and the numbers we need to do the job."
That last bit, from just yesterday, comes from a Cleveland.com story centered on the response to Loomis's long-standing chorus from Jeff Larson, CEO of the Republican National Committee's convention-planning outfit. Here's what Larson had to say:
"We have complete confidence in the city of Cleveland, the Cleveland police department, the federal and state agencies that are working on this, and Cleveland is going to be a safe place," Larson said in an interview. "It's not going to be the place where officers are going to get hurt. It's an effort he's making to diminish the hard work that hundreds and hundreds of people are putting into this."
"He's not involved in the planning on a day-to-day level," Larson added. "He's misrepresenting the preparedness of the city, and it's having repercussions, I think not just in the city of Cleveland, but for people elsewhere who pick up his stories."
"His story," of course, is the Loomis tale of woe. And while there are bound to be well-founded concerns among Loomis and the rank and file about the city's preparedness (who isn't at least a little bit concerned?), it has been strange to see a cog in the city machine speak so vocally and frequently and with a sense of impending doom about Cleveland's big week in the international spotlight in July. But when he says things like "if this thing goes bad, we will be well on record on why it went bad," it's hard not to see a clear motivation — proactively insulating Cleveland police from criticism, or at least attempting to. By publicly saying the cops aren't ready, if "things go bad," he's prepped an on-the-record excuse way ahead of time, inoculating (at least partially) the men and women on the streets in advance for criticism that would undoubtedly fall their way. "We will be on record on why it went bad." I told you back in March. I told you in April. I told you in May. I told you in June.
He may or may not be misrepresenting the preparedness of the city, but he's not doing it to diminish the hard work of hundreds and hundreds of people working on this. He's doing it to protect hundreds and hundreds of his people.
We asked Loomis this morning about the PR implications of his media rounds and where blame/credit falls in his view of the situation:
I could care less about credit. You know me better than that. ALL I want is for every one of our officers to go home in the same condition they came to work in. That is a fair expectation. We still have no gear issued, they are telling us no body cameras, no radios, and now we have a 28 page document that will literally be impossible to adhere to should things start getting bad. My guys, (and by that I mean ALL uniformed police officers) are completely and totally set up for failure. Little or no gear or training to date, very little help from outside agencies, historically violent protestors at RNC's (without Trump factor) it's an unfair notion that I or any of us are worried about credit for a good outcome. Our concern is for the blame the city has set my guys on the street up to take for a bad one. Like I've said before our counterparts in Philly have been training together with ALL of their equipment for over 7 months now and their union stands with the chief and mayor saying they are prepared... I would have loved to have been able to do that...